The latest news for Mansfield pet owners.

The veterinarians and staff at the St. Mina Animal Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis. Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on St. Mina Animal Hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine. Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Happy 2019! New Year, New Pet Resolutions

A new year is upon us. With it comes the opportunity to start anew and set some goals for better, healthier and more productive living. As a pet owner, the new year also marks a fresh opportunity to include your pet's well-being in your plans.

Here are five New Year's resolutions to consider:

1. Resolve to engage in more physical activity and exercise with your pet – It may still be cold outside, but even increasing your daily walk by a few minutes will be beneficial to you and your four-legged friend. Play can also happen indoors. Ward off obesity and behavior issues before they become a problem. Games of fetch, play-wrestling or tug-of-war all are ways to keep your pup active and engaged.

2. Resolve to feed your pet a healthier diet – You may think feeding your pet human food is a way to show your love, but much of it can be fatty and unhealthy for your dog or cat. Just as you may be resolving to watch your own waistline, your canine or feline companion requires a diet that is formulated to provide all of the nutrients he or she requires. Do some research and invest in a high-quality kibble, canned food or raw diet plan – and be careful, as supplementing that with unhealthy human scraps is a leading contributor to weight gain.

3. Resolve to provide your pet with regular veterinary care – As pets age much faster than humans, a lot can happen with their health over the course of a year. Preventive pet health care is the best thing you can do to ensure your furry friend lives a long, happy and healthy life. Between visits to your veterinarian, take measures to continue care at home. This includes giving regular baths, grooming and brushing his or her teeth.

4. Resolve to curb bad behaviors – Being lovingly mauled by your pooch when you arrive home was cute for a while, but maybe the bruises are getting a little out of hand. This year, step up your training game and make it part of your pet's regular routine. Reward good behavior and stop passively encouraging the bad.

5. Resolve to be the best pet parent you can be – Odds are you probably already pamper your pet quite a bit. In 2019, look for more ways to be an outstanding owner. Maybe this means finally getting around to microchipping your pet, investing in pet health insurance or starting a savings fund, or introducing an adopted pet brother or sister into your home. You can also endeavor to do things that benefit you and your pet, such as getting him or her a stylish new bed that complements your décor or organizing that overflowing toy bin.

Microchipped Pets Are More Likely To Be Returned Home

Lost pets that have microchips are more likely to be reunited with their owners. This is according to a recent study published by a leading veterinary journal.

Animal shelters in 23 states participated in this study. It was revealed that shelter officials were able to find the owners of microchipped pets 4 out of 5 times.

“This is the first time there has been good data about the success of shelters finding the owners of pets with microchips,” says Dr. Linda Lord, lead author of the study and professor Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

According to shelter statistics, lost microchipped cats were 20 times more likely to be returned to owners than non-microchipped cats. Microchipped dogs were 2.5 times more likely to be returned to their owners than non-microchipped dogs.

The major reason why pet owners could not be located was due to incorrect or disconnected phone numbers in the registration database. “The chip is only as good as the information that the owner provides. The pet owner needs to make sure that their information is always up-to-date.” Lord says.

Owners’ not returning calls or answering letters, unregistered microchips and microchips registered to a database that differed from the manufacturer were other reasons owners were not found, according to the study.

The results of this study clearly indicate the advantage of microchipping your pet. However, even though microchipping is essential, nothing replaces the need for a collar and tag with your pet’s name and your phone number, Lord says.

A Salty Danger: Keeping Your Pet Safe this Winter

With the winter approaching, pet owners should be aware of the dangers posed by rock salt, also known as “ice melt.” Used to combat slippery sidewalks, steps and walkways, rock salt contains a mixture of many minerals which pose unique problems for pets – who, unlike us, walk around bare-pawed all winter.

Pet Paws & Stomachs At Risk

Walking on rock salt-laden ground can lead to local irritation of your pet’s feet. Paws feature mucus membranes which are sensitive to the harsh, drying minerals found in rock salt. Prolonged exposure can lead to cracked paw-skin and, once the sensitive underlying tissue becomes exposed, can be quite painful for your pooch or kitty.

Your pet may want to cleanse his or her feet of the troublesome, yet tasty, substance by engaging in some extensive licking once back indoors. Ingesting the salt in this way, or from treated snow or melted puddles, can cause drooling, painful sores or swelling inside the mouth and oral discomfort. It can also lead to upset stomach, nausea and vomiting. The ASPCA Poison Control Center reports vomiting followed by diarrhea as the most common symptoms of rock salt ingestion in 30 percent of related calls.

However, if your pet decides to eat a buffet of rock salt cubes, this could be toxic and cause lethargy, tremors, disorientation, increased water consumption and seizures. In extreme cases, excessive ingestion can be fatal.

Tips for Cold-Climate Pet Owners

• Keep bags/containers of rock salt out of reach

• Don’t over-salt areas where your pet routinely walks

• Kitty litter works as a safe substitute

• Keep your pet from overeating salty snow or drinking from puddles

• Rinse then towel off your pet's paws after walks

• Monitor paws for excessive dryness, cracking or irritation

• Vaseline can be used as a salt barrier when applied to your pet's paws

• Consider pet booties!

If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested a fair amount of rock salt, call your veterinarian or a Pet Poison Helpline (such as ASPCA's 888-426-4435) immediately.

Winter Woes: Cold Weather Hoof Care

There's nothing quite like a new, insulated, and perhaps fashionable pair of winter boots. You know that once you win the battle to get them on and laced up, your feet will be protected from the elements and you'll be a happy camper as you tromp through the snow. Although the blistering cold is apt to keep you from riding or visiting with your horse as frequently, don't forget to think about how his or her feet are faring during the winter months.

Your horse's hooves face unique challenges during winter and you don't want to neglect their care. Speaking with your farrier before the cold hits and continuing proper care throughout the winter will ensure your horse receives the best cold-weather hoof care for its individual situation. Keep the following winter hazards in mind and take steps to prevent them ahead of time:

• Abscesses - Hooves don’t like to be wet or damp. The hoof wall will contract as the weather goes from wet to dry and back. This expansion provides an opportunity for bacteria to get into the sensitive tissues of the foot and multiply – resulting in a painful abscess. Weak, shelly hoves are more prone to developing an abscess.

• Blanketing Injuries - The most common injury of blanketed horses is when they are turned out wearing studs, an extension shoe, or a bar shoe and it gets caught up on a hanging strap from their blanket. When the horse attempts to escape, its foot can be twisted and panic can lead to serious injuries.

• Slowed Growth - Your horse's hoof growth will probably slow during the colder months due to less physical activity and differences in nutrition/lack of grazing. This may mean fewer visits from your farrier, but it also means hoof troubles will take longer to grow out. If you expect a high level of work from your horse during the winter, be careful to avoid causing more wear than growth.

• Snow Balling - If your horse wears shoes in the winter, snow can quickly become packed into its foot. Slight melting will occur from the heat of the horse's foot and will then refreeze when touching the metal shoe. What results is "ice balls" in the center of the shoe. These can cause your horse discomfort or bruising and make him or her more apt to trip and potentially sustain injuries. Many owners try to chip this ice away, but they often end up causing puncture wounds.

• Soreness & Bruising - Hard frozen ground isn't kind on anyone's feet. Rough impact can lead to spots of soreness, bruises and lameness. Your veterinarian can locate the exact points of pain and then take steps to reduce pressure on them. Your farrier may also be able to recommend shoes or hoof pads to help prevent recurrence.

Coping with the Loss of a Therapy Animal

Tens of thousands of Americans rely on the steadfast companionship of a service or therapy animal. For some, the animal offers a means to mobility and independence. While for others, the highly-trained pets provide a reassuring presence, increase positive social interactions and offer nonjudgmental support and comfort. For most, the partnership comes with the knowledge that they will outlive their animal companion.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a dog (or miniature horse) who has been trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Tasks can include: guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications and calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack among other duties. Those who solely provide comfort or emotional support are considered therapy animals.

Long-term Bonds Build Strong Relationships

Most service dogs are partnered with "their people" by the age of two, and can spend up to the next decade by their side. In addition to helping its handler bridge a variety of physical barriers, research has shown that service animals have significant emotional benefits. An animal can stimulate production of mood-enhancing chemicals in the body, which can even provide relief from physical pain. When this partnership is severed by death, the handler may experience intense grief as well as depression caused by the loss of physical and/or emotional independence.

Prioritizing Your Mental Health

If you have personally lost a service or therapy animal, their death can cause stress which may deplete your energy and emotional reserves. It is important that you continue to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly to boost your mood. You may develop severe depression. If you seem to be coping worse over time rather than better, you should seek professional help. If it has been more than two months since the death, the following are considered warning signs for clinical depression:

• Difficulty functioning in daily life

• Extreme focus on the death

• Excessive bitterness, anger or guilt

• Neglecting personal hygiene

• Alcohol or drug abuse

• Inability to enjoy life

• Hallucinations

• Withdrawing from others

• Constant feelings of hopelessness

• Talking about dying or suicide

Necessity and the Healing Process

Replacing a therapy animal, although a necessity, may often be accompanied by guilt. The process itself can take a significant amount of time. As each new service animal is presented as an option, you may find yourself comparing it to the animal you lost. It is often recommended that the next service animal not look the same or be of the same breed, so that it is not seen as a replacement but rather, a new beginning.

Those who have experienced the loss of a therapy or service animal often echo the same sentiments. The best thing your friends and family members can do is be there for you in your time of need. Although you may require some additional physical assistance, more than anything it is important to share your feelings with someone without the threat of being judged. Some may say, "It was only a dog." However, for those who rely on a service or therapy animal, he or she was a medical aid, a friend and so much more.